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RECORDS / Suzanne Vega - 99.9F (A&M 5400121)

The high priestess of Eighties New York loft-angst redefines herself in the nick of time with a surprisingly outgoing and jolly fourth album. The worldwide success of DNA's disco remix of Vega's a cappella 'Tom's Diner' seems to have opened her ears to new musical possibilities. Much as with Billy Bragg's Don't Try This At Home last year, the familiar tones of an established singer/songwriter are actually brightened and clarified by a bit of instrumental clutter. The old insipid tendency now and then raises its ugly head, particularly on the single 'In Liverpool', but mostly, from the zippy opening 'Rock In This Pocket' to the barbed 'As Girls Go', this is surprisingly spirited stuff. The presence of some other noises - a bit of bass, and even the odd drum - makes the plain old voice and guitar pattern more effective when it does resurface, particularly on the 'Private Goes Public', which is very nearly hard-hitting.